# The Fourth Dimension and Beyond

Reality consists of 3 spatial dimensions with time adding a fourth dimension. But what reason could we possibly have for putting such limits on reality? Do higher dimensions have any reality apart from their construction within a mathematical framework?

Plato believed in the reality of higher dimensions, as his allegory of the cave demonstrated. Claude Bragdon considered the fourth dimension to be spatial. He believed our conception of time as the fourth dimension was mistaken. We experience time as a “fourth dimension” because of our lack of ability in sensing this dimension which is spatial. He used an analogy equivalent to Plato’s cave analogy. A flatlander would experience a cube travelling through its plane-wise world as beginning with a point, expanding to a polygon and finally contracting to a point before disappearing from sight. It is obvious to me that this flatlander inhabits a three dimensional world and is itself three dimensional, but can only perceive in two spatial dimensions. It perceives itself and its fellow flatlanders as a polygon which changes over time. It conceives of reality as consisting in two spatial dimensions and one time dimension.

Rudolf Steiner discusses the dimensions of space and beyond in a collection of lectures and discussions collated in the book, “The Fourth Dimension. Sacred Geometry, Alchemy, and Mathematics.”

Here he considers beings consisting of various dimensions. A being of two spatial dimensions would only be capable of perceiving one dimension, a being of three dimensions would only perceive two dimensions and so on. In this resect we are beings of four spatial dimensions but we only perceive three of them. Although each of these three dimensions are unique. They all differ experientially.
Regarding the contemplation of the fourth dimension, Steiner admired the work of Charles Howard Hinton who has been credited with coining the word “tesseract” as the name for the four dimensional equivalent to the cube. As a cube can be represented in two dimensions by the hexagon, so the tesseract can be represented in three dimensions by the rhombic dodecahedron.

In Steiner’s lectures linked to above, he introduces his audience to the mathematical treatment of the higher dimension with accompanying diagrams. He also highlights the differences between mathematical treatment and the reality of further dimensions. He does not view reality as consisting of a series of ever increasing spatial dimensions. The neutralization of polarity in one dimension gives rise to the adjacent dimension. For example when two planes cross there arises a line. The planes give rise to the line but the line has no two-dimensional component.

He considers us to be six-dimensional beings with the three physical dimensions being a reflection of three higher causal, creative dimensions. The plants we perceive are three dimensional images of four dimensional beings. In his “archetypal plant” Goethe caught a glimpse of the reality of plants as four-dimensional beings.

Time is a projection of the fourth dimension into the three spatial dimensions of the physical world. It is a feature of living beings that they change intrinsically over time. Sentient beings encompass five dimensions and self aware beings encompass six dimensions. Thinking is dimensionless.

Now when we try to understand the connection between mind and matter some people regard this as a problem of interaction between an immaterial mind and a material body. This becomes a problem for both materialists and idealists to grapple with. But if we look at this from the point of dimensions we can see a solution. We can take an example of a similar problem in two-dimensional reality. In this two-dimensional world we can imagine a ring with a smaller disc sitting outside it. How can the disc get inside the ring without somehow interfering with the structure of the ring? This would be impossible if reality was limited to two dimensions. But if the disc could be lifted into the third dimension and then moved into the ring, this would seem like a miracle to any being perceiving in just two dimensions. It would be as if the disc disappeared and then reappeared within the ring. It is the same with an act of willing a part of my body to move, i.e. mind affecting matter. The connection does not occur in our familiar three dimensional spatial world but in the higher dimensions in which my inner sentient life belongs. This activity impinges on the three-dimensional world but it is not restrained by it.

## 142 thoughts on “The Fourth Dimension and Beyond”

1. Neil Rickert:
CharlieM: I for one see thoughts as natural.

Neil Rickert: As I see it, thinking (the process) is natural. But thoughts are abstractions. There’s no clear way of individuating into thoughts. The term “thoughts” has been added to language as a way of talking about thinking, but we cannot identify what is actually a thought.

Good point. Thinking is a living process. In order to fix a thought in our minds we have to kill the living thinking. But death is a very natural part of life. We have to accept that many of our thoughts have become static and dead and to engage more with living, flexible thinking.

CharlieM: You believe the activity of physical substances gives rise to thoughts. I believe thoughts are mediated through physical substances. What makes you think that your belief is more justified?

Neil Rickert: What is that supposed to say?

Let me paraphrase that: You believe that the sky is blue. I believe that tomatoes are red. What makes you think that your belief is more justified?

In short, you are making a distinction between things that are not even comparable. It makes no sense to do that.

I believe that in the beginning was the Word, and from what I can tell you believe that in the beginning matter was spewed out of “the big bang” or something similar.

2. Neil Rickert:
CharlieM: Practicing geometry as it applies to the outer world allows one to become familiar with its laws and essences.

Neil Rickert: There are laws. But there are no essences.

I should add that the laws are all human constructs. So they are abstractions. In some sense, the laws don’t really exist. They aren’t actual things that we can find. They are ideas that we invent.

Yes, I suppose we could also say that essences are ideas that we invent. The difference, from my perspective, is that I don’t have any use for essences. They seem to add unnecessary confusion.

Confused minds. Abstractions being confused by abstractions.

The curve of a thrown stone can be represented geometrically or algebraically. Do you see any difference in the level of abstraction between these ways of representing?

If we teach children to count by adding beans it abstracts out the connection between the beans. But if we teach them to count by taking a stick and breaking off a piece we get two out of what was a unity. If when then break off an additional piece we arrive at three. This reality of threeness is not dependent on who broke the stick, it could have been a human, ape, beaver or falling rocks. Have I invented the concept of threeness? Three would still have been generated in each case. That is the reality.

3. Kantian Naturalist:
CharlieM: “Do colours and sounds exist in the world or are they products of our sensory and neurophysiological mechanisms?”

Kantian Naturalist: It’s hard to come up with the right answer if one begins with the wrong question.

Do colours and sounds exist in the world? Are colours the product of our sensory and neurophysiological mechanisms? Are colours purely subjective? Are colours a feature of an objective reality? Is there a reality which is beyond subjective/objective distinctions? What are your thoughts?

CharlieM: Plato was very concerned to distinguish becoming from being.

Indeed he was. But he was wrong. “Being” and “becoming” are abstractions from being-becoming.

Perhaps they are all abstractions or they all have some place within reality depending on the context and how each of us thinks about these concepts.

To me becoming involves time while being suggests a dimension beyond time.

4. CharlieM: The curve of a thrown stone can be represented geometrically or algebraically. Do you see any difference in the level of abstraction between these ways of representing?

It isn’t clear what you are asking there. “Curve” already names an abstract idea.

5. CharlieM: Do colours and sounds exist in the world? Are colours the product of our sensory and neurophysiological mechanisms? Are colours purely subjective? Are colours a feature of an objective reality? Is there a reality which is beyond subjective/objective distinctions? What are your thoughts?

My thoughts is that these are bad questions that we shouldn’t ask, because they are based on conceptual errors and empirical falsehoods.

In particular the subjective/objective distinction is a complete muddle and one that we are better off not using at all.

It might be a more useful question to ask, what are the metaphysical and epistemological relationships between our lived experience of a world described with sensory properties and our best empirical science?

6. Neil Rickert:
CharlieM: The curve of a thrown stone can be represented geometrically or algebraically. Do you see any difference in the level of abstraction between these ways of representing?

Neil Rickert: It isn’t clear what you are asking there. “Curve” already names an abstract idea.

Think of a projectile which is not self propelled but leaves some sort of visible trail as it travels through the air. You will see a parabola exactly like the geometrical figure of a parabola.

I believe you are a mathematician, right? In what way does the equation of a parabola resemble the form of a parabola?

7. Kantian Naturalist:
CharlieM: Do colours and sounds exist in the world? Are colours the product of our sensory and neurophysiological mechanisms? Are colours purely subjective? Are colours a feature of an objective reality? Is there a reality which is beyond subjective/objective distinctions? What are your thoughts?

My thoughts is that these are bad questions that we shouldn’t ask, because they are based on conceptual errors and empirical falsehoods.

In particular the subjective/objective distinction is a complete muddle and one that we are better off not using at all.

It might be a more useful question to ask, what are the metaphysical and epistemological relationships between our lived experience of a world described with sensory properties and our best empirical science?

I would answer that even uninformed naive questions are worth asking. Any student that is discouraged from asking questions is actually being discouraged from learning. By the nature of the questions asked any decent teacher will get a better understanding of their pupil’s shortcomings and progress. Even “bad” questions can be helpful here.

The subjective/objective distinction might be regarded as a poor subject of discussion for professional philosophers. But I believe it’s a perfect topic for places like this. The average person has a good grasp on what could be regarded as subjective and what is objective. They certainly know the distinction between actions occurring in the world in general and actions directed at them personally. I would say that through experience we can understand the difference between the reality of subject/object and subject/object as abstractions. Getting caught up in over philosophizing leads away from reality towards arguing in the realm of abstractions.

8. CharlieM: In what way does the equation of a parabola resemble the form of a parabola?

I’m not sure what to make of that. It seems to be an attempt to compare incomparables.

Perhaps I should clarify my point about “curve” being an abstract idea. We see a curve as something that contrasts with straight. But “straight” is really a geometric idea. We don’t see anything straight in nature.

9. CharlieM: The subjective/objective distinction might be regarded as a poor subject of discussion for professional philosophers. But I believe it’s a perfect topic for places like this. The average person has a good grasp on what could be regarded as subjective and what is objective.

The “average person” is terrible at philosophy, which is one of the reasons why teaching it is challenging. Plato’s dialogues are masterpieces of how bad average people are at reasoning carefully, even about subjects that they believe they understand perfectly well. So appealing to what “the average person” understands (or misunderstands) isn’t illuminating.

They certainly know the distinction between actions occurring in the world in general and actions directed at them personally. I would say that through experience we can understand the difference between the reality of subject/object and subject/object as abstractions. Getting caught up in over philosophizing leads away from reality towards arguing in the realm of abstractions.

One cannot think or communicate without using abstract concepts. If one thinks that abstract concepts interfere with direct awareness of reality, then one had best pursue the path of radical silence taught by Zen Buddhism.

The distinction between what is subjective and what is objective is a piece of philosophical jargon, invented by philosophers in order to solve philosophical problems. It was first made by Descartes, who wanted to reconcile St. Augustine with mechanistic physics as a way of preserving Christian doctrines when the scientific revolution required rejecting St. Thomas Aquinas’s synthesis of Christianity and Aristotle. The distinction was further refined and improved upon by Descartes’s immediate successors, until Kant showed that no philosophical progress could be made unless that distinction was radically re-thought. That reconceptualization paved the way for German Idealism and later developments.

As a consequence of those later developments, but especially in the versions accomplished by Merleau-Ponty and by John Dewey, I don’t think the subject/object distinction neatly tracks anything in experience; on the contrary, I think it distorts our understanding of what experience is.

That’s why I think that serious conversation about the metaphysics of sensory qualities cannot be done well within the subject/object framework.

10. Neil Rickert:
CharlieM: In what way does the equation of a parabola resemble the form of a parabola?

Neil Rickert: I’m not sure what to make of that. It seems to be an attempt to compare incomparables.

Perhaps I should clarify my point about “curve” being an abstract idea. We see a curve as something that contrasts with straight. But “straight” is really a geometric idea. We don’t see anything straight in nature.

And do you think that the physical parabola traced by an object is incomparable to the figure of a parabola drawn on paper?

We neither see anything straight nor any ideal parabolas or other curves in nature. But I do agree that nature produces curves and spirals everywhere. Spirals result from the polar interactions of radial forces and surrounding peripheral forces.

All I’m saying is that algebra is more abstract than geometry when it comes to working with the shapes and figures of the experiential world. Anyone can use the Pythagorean formula to work out the lengths of the sides of tringles without having a mental picture of how the squares can be manipulated to give the answer. Geometry allows one to see the process in the mind’s eye.

11. CharlieM: And do you think that the physical parabola traced by an object is incomparable to the figure of a parabola drawn on paper?

What is drawn on paper is a representation. So you question amounts to: is path of an object incomparable to a representation of a parabola?

When we construct representations, we do so in accordance with social conventions. If we try to compare, then we are perhaps following the same social conventions.

12. That’s why I think that serious conversation about the metaphysics of sensory qualities cannot be done well within the subject/object framework.

Do you think measurement by (generally electronic) instrumentation applies here anywhere? Agreement between instruments doesn’t seem to fit the notion of intersubjective. Instruments can measure much of what we regard as sensory qualities. Do you think such measurements properly reflect the notion of “objective”, or do they just make the notion of subjective slipperier?

13. Kantian Naturalist:
CharlieM: The subjective/objective distinction might be regarded as a poor subject of discussion for professional philosophers. But I believe it’s a perfect topic for places like this. The average person has a good grasp on what could be regarded as subjective and what is objective.

Kantian Naturalist: The “average person” is terrible at philosophy, which is one of the reasons why teaching it is challenging. Plato’s dialogues are masterpieces of how bad average people are at reasoning carefully, even about subjects that they believe they understand perfectly well. So appealing to what “the average person” understands (or misunderstands) isn’t illuminating.

I think there are two extremes here. There are those who have very little love of learning in general. Their only interest in what is going to benefit them personally. Favourite sayings here are, “every man for himself”, and, “look after number one”. Then on the right of the bell curve are those who are very interested in understanding reality for its own sake as they see it and get very tied up in the convolutions of difficult philosophical problems. I see myself as fairly average, moving around somewhere on the right hand slope of the curve.

I would hope that those who are on the extreme left move away from the left as they get older and wiser, but it’s not guaranteed. Moving too far to the right brings the danger of adopting a narrow stance in which all other points of view are dismissed out of hand.

CharlieM: They certainly know the distinction between actions occurring in the world in general and actions directed at them personally. I would say that through experience we can understand the difference between the reality of subject/object and subject/object as abstractions. Getting caught up in over philosophizing leads away from reality towards arguing in the realm of abstractions.

Kantian Naturalist: One cannot think or communicate without using abstract concepts. If one thinks that abstract concepts interfere with direct awareness of reality, then one had best pursue the path of radical silence taught by Zen Buddhism.

Of course abstract concepts feature heavily in any communication. There is nothing wrong with this as long as their rightful place is understood. Plato’s Forms are an abstraction from the perspective of physical reality as they are found nowhere in that domain. But physical reality is itself an abstraction from a higher standpoint.

Kantian Naturalist: The distinction between what is subjective and what is objective is a piece of philosophical jargon, invented by philosophers in order to solve philosophical problems. It was first made by Descartes, who wanted to reconcile St. Augustine with mechanistic physics as a way of preserving Christian doctrines when the scientific revolution required rejecting St. Thomas Aquinas’s synthesis of Christianity and Aristotle. The distinction was further refined and improved upon by Descartes’s immediate successors, until Kant showed that no philosophical progress could be made unless that distinction was radically re-thought. That reconceptualization paved the way for German Idealism and later developments.

As a consequence of those later developments, but especially in the versions accomplished by Merleau-Ponty and by John Dewey, I don’t think the subject/object distinction neatly tracks anything in experience; on the contrary, I think it distorts our understanding of what experience is.

That’s why I think that serious conversation about the metaphysics of sensory qualities cannot be done well within the subject/object framework.

It isn’t a matter of arguing within a subject/object framework, but of trying to understand where the divide is generally assumed to be and its consequence on human behaviour. In my opinion the evolution of consciousness there is a stage which involves a feeling of being a separate subject within an objective world. Only in this way can love for the “other” be developed. And when this love reaches a high degree, the subject/object dichotomy is overcome and an understanding of the higher unity of the whole of existence comes about.

The subject/object distinction is a necessity in the evolution of consciousness.

14. Neil Rickert:
CharlieM: And do you think that the physical parabola traced by an object is incomparable to the figure of a parabola drawn on paper?

Neil Rickert: What is drawn on paper is a representation. So you question amounts to: is path of an object incomparable to a representation of a parabola?

When we construct representations, we do so in accordance with social conventions. If we try to compare, then we are perhaps following the same social conventions.

The path of an object, like the drawn curve, is also a representation of a parabolic curve. Individual curves vary, human conventions vary, human societies and cultures vary, but the concept of conic sections does not change because any of these change.

15. Flint:
Kantian Naturalist:

Flint: That’s why I think that serious conversation about the metaphysics of sensory qualities cannot be done well within the subject/object framework.

Do you think measurement by (generally electronic) instrumentation applies here anywhere? Agreement between instruments doesn’t seem to fit the notion of intersubjective. Instruments can measure much of what we regard as sensory qualities. Do you think such measurements properly reflect the notion of “objective”, or do they just make the notion of subjective slipperier?

Subjectivity goes hand in hand with self consciousness. Mechanical devices have never shown any signs of self consciousness.

16. CharlieM: Individual curves vary, human conventions vary, human societies and cultures vary, but the concept of conic sections does not change because any of these change.

I’m not sure what point you think you are making there. It is quite possible for somebody to live a reasonably complete life while never even hearing of conic sections.

17. CharlieM: Subjectivity goes hand in hand with self consciousness. Mechanical devices have never shown any signs of self consciousness.

But the people who design them, use them and interpret their outputs certainly do. You don’t seem to grasp the nature of the problem here.

18. CharlieM: physical reality is itself an abstraction from a higher standpoint.

Yet many other philosophers, such as Marx and Nietzsche, have argued that the very idea of a higher standpoint is only an abstraction from physical reality. How do you know that Plato and Steiner are right, and that Marx and Nietzsche are wrong? What arguments convinced you?

19. Flint: Do you think measurement by (generally electronic) instrumentation applies here anywhere? Agreement between instruments doesn’t seem to fit the notion of intersubjective. Instruments can measure much of what we regard as sensory qualities. Do you think such measurements properly reflect the notion of “objective”, or do they just make the notion of subjective slipperier?

I haven’t given nearly as much thought to measurement as I have to the nature of models, though I recognize that they are inseparable aspects of scientific practice.

I think that the fact that we can build transducers (mechanical, electric, and electronic) that respond to features of the world that we can also respond to is certainly quite interesting — as well as the fact that we can use instruments to augment our sensory range.

Of particular interest to me is our capacity to demonstrate through experiment that other animals can detect features of the environment that we cannot (e.g. seeing polarized light, sensing infrared or ultraviolet parts of the EM spectrum, sound frequencies below or above the normal human hearing range).

(A friend of mine told me the other day that California ground squirrels have evolved a threat evaluation display that contains an IR component, because rattlesnakes are IR responsive, even though the squirrels themselves aren’t. That’s the kind of thing that fascinates me!)

Here, in a small-ish nutshell, is how I generally see the nature of epistemological problems:

Humans, like every other animal, are generally pretty good at detecting, classifying, tracking, and responding to motivationally salient stimuli, especially those stimuli that are relevantly similar to perceptible features of the physical and social environments that shaped mammalian, hominoid, and hominid evolution.

But because what matters to the animal depends on the ecological niche and developmental pathway constraints, animals are generally bad at deploying their perceptual and conceptual resources in contexts that depart too widely from their epistemic ‘home turf’. And generally pretty good means, of course, satisficing, not optimal. (I find it more intuitive to think of natural selection as selection against non-satisficing traits rather than as selecting for anything, let alone optimality.)

So every animal, including us, occupies what could be called an “epistemic local optimum”: generally pretty good at deploying the perceptual and conceptual capacities for detecting, classifying, tracking, and responding to motivationally salient stimuli.

But we’re also ok-ish (not great) at finding ways of moving away from our evolved epistemic local optimum in search of better ones. There are two major tricks that we use to do this.

The first is a semantically and syntactically rich language allows us to encode, transmit, and decode representations that would otherwise be wholly brain-bound, so that each of us can incorporate into our cognitive model information that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to access. (The encoding and decoding are lossy, so we compensate for that in iteration, e.g. “I don’t quite follow what you mean. Could you put it another way?”)

This allows for a transition, along a continuum, from purely egocentric models of the environment to more allocentric models. The more allocentric information that enters into our cognitive model, the more that model will approximate the real underlying structure of the universe. But there are ethnogenic, anthropogenic and biogenic constraints that impose limits on how approximate our models can become — and learning more about those constraints gives us some resources for how to work around them, as best as we can.

The second trick is the extraction of resources from the environment that can be used to extract other resources from the environment, e.g. tool-use. What makes human tool-use distinct from tool-use in other apes is the planning depth necessary for crafting and using tools, which requires extensive training and teaching.

Amongst other apes, young will carefully observe what elders are doing and figure out for themselves how to produce the same effect, which they will refine through trial and error. But the elders very rarely (if ever) set upon the task of constructing a special kind of task environment for the young in which the young will be expected to observe and also imitate the behavior being modeled for them. By contrast, explicit teaching and imitative learning are found in every single human culture.

These two good tricks — language and tool-use — are brought together in science. (Arguably science adds a third trick, mathematics. But mathematics could be understood as a formal language.) In science we come up with ideas about how the world might be, decide which parts of the model are variables and which are parameters, and then figure out how to construct a manipulation of the environment that allows us to measure the variables while leaving the parameters alone.

What is crucial about science is that we can experiments can fail, we can be surprised, we can find out things that we weren’t expecting and didn’t even know to look for. This is what gives us any degree of assurance that scientific methods will allow us to peek over the limits of our epistemic local optimum and catch glimpses of how the world really is.

And of course the picture that I have sketched for us about the nature of our epistemic situation is a picture based on what science seems to tell us about ourselves; it is not a picture that would have been available to Plato, Confucius, Nagarjuna, or Kant.

At the same time, our philosophical confidence in this picture is bolstered by giving us answers to questions that Plato and Kant were utterly mystified by, and to which they could give no intellectually satisfying response. So in that regard I do think that there is philosophical progress, insofar as we can use our best explanations of the world (and ourselves as part of that world) to address the questions posed by the greatest (so far) of human minds.

20. Thank you for this — it makes so much sense. I found your comments on allocentric models and surprise in science particularly on point.
Cheers.

21. Neil Rickert:
CharlieM: Individual curves vary, human conventions vary, human societies and cultures vary, but the concept of conic sections does not change because any of these change.

Neil Rickert: I’m not sure what point you think you are making there. It is quite possible for somebody to live a reasonably complete life while never even hearing of conic sections.

That is true. The ideal conic section does not depend on any individual ideation of conic sections. The ideal conic section is. In other words it not becoming, it is being. And that is why Plato laid such stress on thinking about geometry. It leads beyond becoming.

22. Flint:
CharlieM: Subjectivity goes hand in hand with self consciousness. Mechanical devices have never shown any signs of self consciousness.

Flint: But the people who design them, use them and interpret their outputs certainly do. You don’t seem to grasp the nature of the problem here.

I was making an observation, I wasn’t arguing against what you said.

In discussing the evolution of consciousness in the historical period, Owen Barfield used three terms, original participation, idolatry, and final participation.

Original participation is the state in which people do not feel separate from surrounding nature, They were/are part of ensouled nature and experience no subject/object dichotomy. Modern materialistic thinking has brought with it idolatry when we experience ourselves as apart from the “things” existing in an outer world and these “things” are imagined to have a reality greater than they deserve. The rise to final participation brings a reconnection without the loss of our sense of self and a realization that consciousness is not restricted within organs such as brains or skin.

As in your example of instruments, they cannot exist outwith the context of human designers. In reality there are no separate “things”. The jigsaw of reality is a unified picture.

23. Kantian Naturalist:
CharlieM: physical reality is itself an abstraction from a higher standpoint.

Yet many other philosophers, such as Marx and Nietzsche, have argued that the very idea of a higher standpoint is only an abstraction from physical reality. How do you know that Plato and Steiner are right, and that Marx and Nietzsche are wrong? What arguments convinced you?

Forms such as the triangle in the ideal sense belong in a higher reality. They are abstract with respect to our physical world because they are found nowhere within this reality. But to think that the ideal triangle is abstracted from physical triangles is to think that the perfect and consistent is a copy of the imperfect and inconsistent.

This is what Barfield was getting at with his concept of idolatry. Physical triangles are transient and subject to the processes of becoming are seen to have a greater reality than the ideal triangle. This triangle is not subject to the processes of time and cannot be broken or destroyed as the physical representation can. They have no part in becoming.

24. Thank you for this — it makes so much sense. I found your comments on allocentric models and surprise in science particularly on point.
Cheers.

Isaac Asimov wrote that the most important words in science are not “Eureka, I’ve found it!” but rather “hmm, that’s funny…”

25. Kantian Naturalist: Yet many other philosophers, such as Marx and Nietzsche, have argued that the very idea of a higher standpoint is only an abstraction from physical reality

Steiner had a very high opinion of Nietzsche as can be seen from his book Friedrich Nietzsche, Fighter for Freedom. He wrote:

“I felt that Nietzsche photographed the world from the point to which a deeply significant personality was forced if he had to subsist on the spiritual substance of that time alone, that is, if the vision of the spiritual world did not penetrate into his consciousness …

“This was the picture of Nietzsche that appeared in my thought. It revealed to me the personality who did not see the spirit, but in whom unconsciously the spirit fought against the unspiritual views of the age …”

Nietzsche’s sister had allowed Steiner access to Nietzsche towards the end of his life and he gave a Memorial Address after his death.

“Frau Foerster-Nietzsche had asked that I arrange the Nietzsche library. Thus I was permitted to spend several weeks in the Nietzsche Archives in Naumberg. It was a beautiful task that brought before me books that Nietzsche had read. His spirit lived in the impressions these volumes made. … A book by Emerson, covered with marginal notes, bore traces of the most devoted, intense study. …

“My relationship with the Nietzsche Archives was a very stimulating episode in my life in Weimar. …”

Regarding Marx, Steiner speaks about The Communist Manifesto

This Communist Manifesto the contents of which I do not need to explain to you, appeared in 1848. It was the first document, the first seed in what has now borne fruit, after the recent destruction of opposing movements. This document contains one slogan, one sentence which you will often find quoted today by most socialist writers: “Workers of the world, unite!” It is a sentence which has run through many socialist groups. What does it express? It expresses the most unnatural thing that could possibly be thought today. It expresses an impulse for socializing, for uniting a certain mass of people. On what is this uniting, this union, to be built? Upon its opposite, upon the hatred of all those who are not members of the working class. This associating, this banding together of people is to be brought about through splitting up and separating mankind into classes. You must ponder this, you must think about the reality of this principle which is a genuine illusion, if I can use this expression, and which has been adopted in Russia, now in Germany and the Austrian countries, and which will eat its way further and further into the world. It is so unnatural precisely because, on the one hand, it shows the necessity of socializing, but on the other it builds this socialization out of the anti-social instinct of class hatred, and class opposition.

And today we are seeing first hand the consequences of a thinking which stirs up hatred between groups of people.

Steiner predicted this time in which we can opt for two paths, one in which life is seen as having no meaning and this type of thinking leads ultimately to a “war of all against all”. Or we can choose the other path which leads to unity. We can either turn the illusion of separateness into a reality or we can come to an understanding of the higher unity which takes inner effort and sacrifice to achieve.

The future is in no way guaranteed.

26. Kantian Naturalist: How do you know that Plato and Steiner are right, and that Marx and Nietzsche are wrong? What arguments convinced you?

I don’t know that the former are right and the latter wrong. I only know what I know from my own experience and due to my experiences I am more inclined towards Plato and Steiner. But I don’t believe that everything they say is true.

I prefer to leave room for doubt rather than to believe anything with certainty.

27. CharlieM: I prefer to leave room for doubt rather than to believe anything with certainty.

It is rather obvious that your “room for doubt” is not distributed equally between the views that KN was contrasting.

CharlieM: I only know what I know from my own experience and due to my experiences I am more inclined towards Plato and Steiner.

Why are you … ah … more inclined towards Plato and Steiner? What arguments made you prefer their views?

28. Too bad you don’t understand Marx or Nietzsche well enough to realize that Steiner is lying to you about what they are saying.

I’m done here.

29. Corneel:
CharlieM: I prefer to leave room for doubt rather than to believe anything with certainty.

Corneel: It is rather obvious that your “room for doubt” is not distributed equally between the views that KN was contrasting.

I think this would apply to any of us here.

CharlieM: I only know what I know from my own experience and due to my experiences I am more inclined towards Plato and Steiner.

Corneel: Why are you … ah … more inclined towards Plato and Steiner? What arguments made you prefer their views?

The arguments I’ve been using throughout my time here.

Steiner’s method of gaining knowledge of the world lays great emphasis on the process requiring self improvement and self discipline to accompany any gains in knowledge. Similar to the Buddhist eightfold path it is designed to ensure that knowledge is used wisely for the benefit of all and that it isn’t used for self-gratification.

Take a look at the newsreel images flashing across our screens at the moment and you will see the application and advances of technical knowledge in comparison to the wisdom of humanity which lags so far behind our creative abilities.

His book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment lays out the path that is open for anyone who wishes to follow it.

30. Kantian Naturalist: CharlieM,

Too bad you don’t understand Marx or Nietzsche well enough to realize that Steiner is lying to you about what they are saying.

I’m done here.

That’s a pity.

Or anything Steiner said about Marx and the clarity of his thinking which allowed it to be taken up by so many people?

31. Steiner on Marx:

In Hegel, the ideas are in a continuous progress of evolution and the results of this evolution are the actual events of life. What Auguste Comte derived from natural scientific conceptions as a conception of society based on the actual events of life, Karl Marx wants to attain from the direct observation of the economic evolution. Marxism is the boldest form of an intellectual current that starts from the historical phenomena as they appear to external observation, in order to understand the spiritual life and the entire cultural development of man. This is modern “sociology.” It in no way accepts man as an individual but rather as a member of social evolution. Man’s conceptions, knowledge, action and feeling are all considered to be the result of social powers under the influence of which the individual stands.

No, I have not. The short excerpt you shared above was enough to convince me that reading Steiner on Nietzsche would be a waste of my time — and I say that as someone who has read all of Nietzsche and published on Nietzsche.

Or anything Steiner said about Marx and the clarity of his thinking which allowed it to be taken up by so many people?

The few excerpts from Steiner about Marx make it perfectly clear that Steiner doesn’t understand Marx at all.

Marx does not deny the importance of human individuality and Marx does not base the solidarity of the proletariat upon their hatred of the bourgeoisie. These are not only false but obviously false to anyone who has taken any time to read Marx.

Either Steiner is lying when he claims to have read them, or he has read them and he is lying about what they say.

If you look to Steiner for an understanding what Nietzsche and Marx are saying, you are being duped.

33. CharlieM: Steiner’s method of gaining knowledge of the world lays great emphasis on the process requiring self improvement and self discipline to accompany any gains in knowledge. Similar to the Buddhist eightfold path it is designed to ensure that knowledge is used wisely for the benefit of all and that it isn’t used for self-gratification.

Funny, I can’t think of a single example where Steiner’s method resulted in some useful “gain of knowledge”. I did note you posting an OP bemoaning how genuine scientific knowledge resulted in a “mechanical and mindless” universe bereft of meaning. You must be looking at a different universe 😀 .

It’s still magic even if you know how it’s done.

― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

34. Steiner’s preface from 1895 to the book I linked to:

When I became acquainted with the works of Friedrich Nietzsche six years ago, ideas had already formed within me which were similar to his. Independently, and from completely different directions, I came to concepts which were in harmony with those Nietzsche expressed in his writings: Zarathustra, Jenseits von Gut and Böse, Beyond Good and Evil, Genealogie der Moral, Genealogy of Morals, and Götzendämmerung, Twilight of Idols. In my little book which appeared in 1886, Erkenntnistheorie der Goetheschen Weltanschauung, The Theory of Knowledge in Goethe’s World Conception, this same way of implicit thinking is expressed as one finds in the works of Nietzsche mentioned above.

This is why I feel myself impelled to draw a picture of Nietzsche’s life of reflection and feeling. I believe that such a picture will be most like Nietzsche when it is created according to his last writings. This I have done. The earlier writings of Nietzsche show him as a searcher. He presents himself to us as a restless striver toward the heights. In his last writings we see him when he has reached the summit, and at a height commensurate with his very own spiritual quality. In most of the writings which have appeared about Nietzsche up to now, this development is represented as if in the various periods of his writing he had more or less contradictory opinions. I have tried to show that there is no question of a change of opinion in Nietzsche, but rather of a movement upward, of a development of a personality in a manner fitting to it, which had not yet found a form of expression in accord with his innate points of view in those first works.

The final goal of Nietzsche’s creativity is the description of the “superman.” I considered my chief task in this writing to be the characterization of this type. My characterization of the superman is exactly the opposite of the caricature developed in the currently popular book about Nietzsche by Frau Lou Andreas Salomé. One cannot put into the world anything more contrary to Nietzsche’s spirit than the mystical monster she has made out of the superman. My book shows that in Nietzsche’s ideas nowhere is the least trace of mysticism to be found. I did not allow myself to be drawn into the refutation of Frau Salomé’s opinion that Nietzsche’s thoughts in Menschliches, All-zumenschliches, Human, All Too Human, were influenced by the works of Paul Rée, the editor of Psychological Observations, and The Origin of Moral Feelings, etc. Such an average brain as that of Paul Rée could make no important impression on Nietzsche. Even now I would not touch upon these things at all if the book of Frau Salomé had not contributed so much toward the spreading of downright disagreeable judgments about Nietzsche. Fritz Koegel, the excellent publisher of Nietzsche’s works, bestowed upon this bungled piece of work its deserved treatment in the Magazine for Literature.

I cannot conclude this short preface without giving hearty thanks to Nietzsche’s sister, Frau Foerster-Nietzsche, for the many friendly deeds I experienced from her during the period in which this book developed. I owe to her the hours spent in the Nietzsche Archives, and the mood out of which the following thoughts were written.

35. The consensus of Nietzsche scholars is that Salome was right — Paul Ree was a substantial influence on Nietzsche, as Nietzsche himself admits.

I don’t think we can discount the possibility that Steiner is attacking Salome because she and Elisabeth hated each other, and Steiner is taking Elisabeth’s side out of personal loyalty. I also don’t think we can discount the possibility that Steiner rejects the possibility of Ree’s influence on Nietzsche because Ree was Jewish.

Elisabeth Foerster-Nietzsche’s anti-semitism is extensively documented.

36. Kantian Naturalist:

No, I have not. The short excerpt you shared above was enough to convince me that reading Steiner on Nietzsche would be a waste of my time — and I say that as someone who has read all of Nietzsche and published on Nietzsche.

Can you read German proficiently? I don’t think you can accuse Steiner of lying based on that short, isolated quote.

CharlieM: Or anything Steiner said about Marx and the clarity of his thinking which allowed it to be taken up by so many people?

Kantian Naturalist: The few excerpts from Steiner about Marx make it perfectly clear that Steiner doesn’t understand Marx at all.

Marx does not deny the importance of human individuality and Marx does not base the solidarity of the proletariat upon their hatred of the bourgeoisie. These are not only false but obviously false to anyone who has taken any time to read Marx.

Either Steiner is lying when he claims to have read them, or he has read them and he is lying about what they say.

If you look to Steiner for an understanding what Nietzsche and Marx are saying, you are being duped.

Steiner was not talking about the thoughts of Marx on individuality. He was talking about the effects of taking up such a philosophy which encourages setting up opposition between groups while stifling individuality by creating a false idea of equality among people. Steiner’s idea of threefolding lays out a system where equality and individuality have their proper places. History, and the current world situation, shows us that trying to set up a system which aims to produce a blanket equality is doomed to failure and conflict. Equality is appropriate for the political and rights sphere, but not the cultural nor the economic spheres. Marxism lost its way because it was so tied up in the economic sphere.

Marx may not have intended to promote a system that produced hatred and strife between groups of people but that has been the outcome. Steiner saw that both one-sided communism and extreme fascism have the same disastrous consequences. Neither take heed of the natural threefoldedness of humans which should be mirrored in society. He warned that this misplaced form of communism “will eat its way further and further into the world”. And that is what happened.

37. Corneel:
CharlieM: Steiner’s method of gaining knowledge of the world lays great emphasis on the process requiring self improvement and self discipline to accompany any gains in knowledge. Similar to the Buddhist eightfold path it is designed to ensure that knowledge is used wisely for the benefit of all and that it isn’t used for self-gratification.

Corneel: Funny, I can’t think of a single example where Steiner’s method resulted in some useful “gain of knowledge”. I did note you posting an OP bemoaning how genuine scientific knowledge resulted in a “mechanical and mindless” universe bereft of meaning. You must be looking at a different universe 😀 .

It’s still magic even if you know how it’s done.

― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

Isn’t it the height of arrogance to claim to “know how it’s done”. I side with Socrates, relatively speaking, I know that I know nothing.

38. The consensus of Nietzsche scholars is that Salome was right — Paul Ree was a substantial influence on Nietzsche, as Nietzsche himself admits.

I don’t think we can discount the possibility that Steiner is attacking Salome because she and Elisabeth hated each other, and Steiner is taking Elisabeth’s side out of personal loyalty. I also don’t think we can discount the possibility that Steiner rejects the possibility of Ree’s influence on Nietzsche because Ree was Jewish.

Elisabeth Foerster-Nietzsche’s anti-semitism is extensively documented.

In Metamorphoses of the Soul – Paths of Experience Vol. 2 (1910) Steiner wrote:

Paul Ree, for example, who at one time had great influence on Nietzsche, wrote on the origin of conscience.

He obviously did not reject Ree’s influence.

Steiner seems to have understood the relationship between Salome, Ree and Nietzsche. I don’t know enough about this to say much more than that, but it looks like it would be interesting to dig deeper into this. As far as I know Steiner regarded Elisabeth Foerster-Nietzsche’s understanding of her brother’s writings as pretty poor to say the least.

39. CharlieM: Isn’t it the height of arrogance to claim to “know how it’s done”. I side with Socrates, relatively speaking, I know that I know nothing.

What a peculiar attitude. Is it the aim of “Steiner’s method of gaining knowledge of the world” to end up knowing nothing?

40. CharlieM: Marx may not have intended to promote a system that produced hatred and strife between groups of people but that has been the outcome.

Don’t think that’s correct. Where has Marxism been attempted? Cuba?

41. Corneel:
CharlieM: Isn’t it the height of arrogance to claim to “know how it’s done”. I side with Socrates, relatively speaking, I know that I know nothing.

Corneel: What a peculiar attitude. Is it the aim of “Steiner’s method of gaining knowledge of the world” to end up knowing nothing?

I might have gained knowledge a million-fold throughout my life but it would still amount to virtually nothing compared to what I’ve still to learn. I would say that this is what Socrates was getting at.

42. Alan Fox:
CharlieM: Marx may not have intended to promote a system that produced hatred and strife between groups of people but that has been the outcome.

Alan Fox: Don’t think that’s correct. Where has Marxism been attempted? Cuba?

Do you not think that Lenin and Stalin were Marxists?